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Joseph Feingold (1923–2020), Holocaust survivor profiled in Oscar-nominated “Joe’s Violin”

by Linnea Crowther

Joseph Feingold was a Holocaust survivor who became known after his act of kindness was commemorated in the Oscar-nominated short documentary, “Joe’s Violin.”

The war and the years after

Feingold was a native of Poland, 17 years old when the Nazis invaded. He and his father fled to Russia, where they were captured and transported to a concentration camp in Siberia. Feingold survived, though he lost his mother and brother to concentration camps.

After the war’s end, as Feingold was recovering in a displaced person’s camp, he traded cigarettes for a used violin at a flea market. The violin cheered him, and it traveled with him when he immigrated to New York City, where he studied architecture and became successful in the profession. Decades later, when Feingold’s arthritis made it hard for him to play, he decided to donate the violin to a local schoolchild through an instrument donation drive.

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The violin found its way to 12-year-old Brianna Perez. And the story of Feingold’s donation, told on the radio, caught the attention of filmmaker Kahane Cooperman. She dug deeper and discovered the incredible journey Feingold and his violin made, and she turned his story and Brianna’s into the 2016 documentary “Joe’s Violin.”

Feingold on donating his violin

“When I heard that I could share it, that it could go to a school, it was the best thing that could have happened. I would have never just sold it.” —from a 2015 interview with Forward

What people said about him

Full obituary: The New York Times

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